|The White Sox have pulled out of their early season rut (Getty Images)|
Following disappointing first halves, both Sox again found themselves in similar positions at the All-Star Break. Boston checked in at 42-47, while Chicago was an equally tepid 41-45. Both were playing well at the time, though, seemingly poised to go on a second half run after finishing the first half strong.
Since the All-Star Break, however, they have veered off in completely opposite directions. Boston has floundered, losing eight in a row and 12 of its last 14. Chicago, meanwhile, has taken off, winning seven in a row heading into tonight's series finale at Fenway and improving its July record to 16-8 (only the Yankees have a better record this month).
Their extreme performances over the past few weeks have dramatically altered their rest-of-season outlooks. The White Sox were an afterthought until the end of June, at which point they became the hottest team in baseball. Since June 28th, Chicago has posted the best record in baseball. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have been among the coldest, with the third-worst record in baseball over that span.
The few weeks between the Midsummer Classic and trade deadline are typically make-or-break for the teams on the cusp, which is especially true this year considering only six American League clubs have won more games than they've lost. Teams have to decide whether to go for it or wave the white flag, which always makes for an intriguing game of will-they or won't-they. With the second wild card keeping so many teams in contention deeper into the season, it's become increasingly difficult for teams to separate from the pack, and thus distinguish themselves as buyers or sellers. For some, a few well-timed wins or poorly-timed losses near the end of July can make all the difference.
So while Chicago seemed like one of the few surefire sellers this time last month, that is no longer the case, with their recent tear vaulting them to within two and a half games of the second wild card. Boston, on the other hand, was pursuing an ace after trimming their divisional deficit to five games before the break, but such a move seems unlikely now that they find themselves 14 games out of first and nine back of the wild card. Whereas the White Sox are back in it, the Red Sox are effectively out of it.
Accordingly, Chicago should hold on to Samardzija (unless somebody blows them away) and seek to add reinforcements. For Boston, another fire-sale is in order.
Never were their diverging trajectories more apparent than during their four-game showdown this week at a steamy Fenway Park. With Boston mired in a brutal heat wave, the White Sox were even hotter than the Hub's sweltering temperatures. Boston's mediocre pitching made the AL's worst offense look indomitable by allowing 10 runs on 15 hits in the series opener, nine runs on 14 hits to spoil Pedro Martinez's retired number ceremony, and nine runs on 17 hits last night. The ball was flying around Fenway's friendly confines as Chicago feasted on Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello. Tonight's menu features another appetizing entrée in knuckleballer Steven Wright (3-4, 4.78 ERA).
While the visiting Sox thrived in the oppressive humidity, the hometown Sox continued to melt. After putting up eight runs in Monday's losing effort, they were silenced by Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana the last two nights. Boston doesn't figure to do much against Chris Sale tonight, either. A four-game sweep, which seemed unfathomable after Boston took two of three from Detroit over the weekend, is all but assured.
The state of both teams can be summarized as follows: With two months of baseball yet to be played, the White Sox still have hope, and the Red Sox don't.
|Image courtesy of AP|